The weather seems to have finally turned to spring here in Minneapolis (hopefully I’m not tempting fate by saying this...if we get a snow storm next week I take full responsibility). And it feels fantastic right?! People seem happier. Case and point - the crabby checkout lady at Target actually half-smiled at me this morning.
Part of this is because we’ve been stuck inside all winter. Part of it is that we’ve scraped our cars and shoveled our sidewalks about five billion times. Our kids are driving us nuts because they just want to RUN and PLAY without being bogged down by snowsuits, hats, and mittens (think Randy in “A Christmas Story”).
However, I think a big part of it is that most of us are deficient in vitamin D and our skin is so happy to finally feel the sun again. You’ve probably heard your doctor harping about vitamin D within the last 5ish years or so. This is with good reason. It’s been found that Vitamin D deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. (3) Minnesotans are especially hard hit by this due to our northern latitude. In fact, in 2010, a study done on a group of Alina employees in MN found a whopping 60% of them were deficient in this important molecule. (7)
Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is a big deal. Vitamin D has anticarcinogenic effects aka it protects us from getting cancer and helps us survive a cancer diagnosis. (1) Furthermore, low vitamin D increases our risk of cardiometabolic diseases such as insulin-resistance, diabetes, and obesity. (2) Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with autoimmune diseases, heart disease, cognitive decline, bone diseases, and allergies. (6) Low levels during pregnancy have been shown to increase complications and can affect the fetus’ health status well into adulthood. (6)
So Vitamin D is crazy important. Want to know if you’re deficient? (if you’re in MN you probably are) Go to your primary care doc and ask for a simple blood test. It’s cheap and easy. Once you know your status your doctor should recommend if supplementation is necessary and what dosage you’ll need. Typically, ideal supplementation is 2000 IU/day for an adult and 600 IU/day for a child. (5) Although I can’t stress enough that getting your levels checked would give you a much better idea of your specific need.
Aside from taking a Vitamin D supplement, another great way to get vitamin D is to let your body make its own. Your body can get the minimum recommended vitamin D of 1000-2000 IU daily with 20-30 minutes of sun exposure 3x/wk if you have fair skin. If you have darker skin, it takes more time as your skin has more melanin, a molecule that blocks the UVB rays required for vitamin D production. For someone with darker skin, this number is more like 2 hrs 3x/wk. (4)
Eating foods high in vitamin D is also a great practice, although getting your full dosage through food would be difficult. Foods like fatty fish, beef liver, and egg yolks are high in vitamin D. (5)
So want to decrease your risk of cancer, diabetes, autoimmunity and more? Get out and enjoy that spring and summer sunshine, Minnesotans! And ask your doctor for a vitamin D level check at your next check-up!
1. McNamara, M. and Rosenberger, KD. The Significance of Vitamin D Status in Breast Cancer: A State of the Science Review. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2019 Apr. 12.
2. Analysis of Association between Vitamin D Deficiency and Insulin Resistance. Szymczak-Pajor I and Silwinska, A. Nutrients. 2019 Apr. 6 11(4).
3. What is the Best Solution to Manage Vitamin D Deficiency? Khayyatzadeh SS, Bagherniya M, Abdollahi Z, Ferns GA, Ghayour-Mobarhan M. IUBMB Life. 2019 Apr 1.